Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – June 10, 2016

Google Chrome hacks: Make your browser faster, more efficient, and boost your productivity;  5 free streaming-TV apps (and why you’re probably not using them);  How to monitor ReadyBoost performance in Windows 10;  Why your next laptop should be a Chromebook;  Facebook allows users to upload videos in comments;  Here’s the one surprising lesson I learned as a victim of debit card fraud – and much more news you need to know.

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Google Chrome hacks: Make your browser faster, more efficient, and boost your productivity – Simple hacks to make your installation of Google Chrome better, faster, more RAM efficient, and to help make you more productive.

5 free streaming-TV apps (and why you’re probably not using them) – In a perfect world, companies like Apple and Roku would open up their search tools so that any streaming service—large or small—could bring its content to the surface. Those services could then start hawking their wares in search results as a way to alert people to their existence. Until that happens, you’ll have to do some hunting and pecking. So here are five free streaming-video apps and services to keep an eye on, along with some of their best stuff. You can also read our Now Streaming column for our resident film critic’s specific content recommendations, which highlights movies available on these and other services.

Windows 10 tip: Stay organized using virtual desktops – You no longer need third-party software to use virtual desktops, now that this feature is included in Windows 10 as part of Task View. Here’s how to create extra desktops and move open apps and windows between them.

How to monitor ReadyBoost performance in Windows 10 – Just how much is ReadyBoost optimizing your system’s disk performance? Here’s a look at how to use Resource Monitor and Performance Monitor to nail down the specifics. I recently performed a clean install of 64-bit Windows 10 Pro on an older ASUS F3 with an AMD Turion 64 X2, 80GB hard disk, and 1GB of RAM. This is the system on which I have been experimenting with ReadyBoost. Since it really highlights a use case for ReadyBoost, I’ll use that system for this article.

Facebook allows users to upload videos in comments – Facebook users can now leave videos as comments on posts and status updates. By selecting the camera icon underneath a string of replies — previously used only to add a photo — you’re now able to upload your own video clip on Facebook’s iOS and Android app, as well as on its regular site. The feature was prototyped in a single day as part of the company’s 50th Hackathon early this year, but was honed over the past few months, Facebook engineer Bob Baldwin explaining that it was “no small feat to add support across interfaces and within two heavy traffic services, like comments and videos.”


Another 4 Gmail Labs features for a more productive inbox – Google’s incubator for experimental features offers up ways to prevent phishing scams, add extra inboxes, and more.

Tinder discontinues service for users under 18 – Tinder is discontinuing use of the app for everyone under the age of 18 starting next week, according to a statement from Tinder VP of Communications Rosette Pambakian. The dating app has allowed everyone 13 years of age or older to use the app since it launched back in 2012. Anyone between 13 and 17 years old was only allowed to match with others in that pool. However, that is all changing with today’s announcement, which requires that users be over 18 to sign on and start swiping.

Five apps to help you start a business – Starting a new business is challenging, but technology can make this daunting process just a little bit easier. The internet is filled with apps to help entrepreneurs get their new business up and running. Here are a few helpful tools to check out.

Why your next laptop should be a Chromebook – Chromebooks are good. Very good. If you’re looking to replace a laptop then you really should take a look at them.

Watch Lenovo’s foldable, flexible phones in action – This afternoon the folks at Lenovo let it be known that they were well into development of two Android-based smartphones with bendable displays. These devices utilize flexible pieces – flexible displays, first and foremost – as well as bits and pieces within that make their next-level wearability and foldability a possibility for the real world. These devices were shown off at Lenovo Tech World by YouTube personality Megan McCarthy and Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius.


Bluetooth 5 will be announced next week with four times the speed and double the range – The next version of the Bluetooth standard is called Bluetooth 5, and will be formally announced next week, Bluetooth Special Interest Group executive director Mark Powell has revealed. Bluetooth 5 is expected to be a significant upgrade over the current version of the wireless standard, offering double the range and four times the speed of current low-energy Bluetooth transmissions, but the Bluetooth SIG says it will also offer much more support for connectionless services — things like beacons that can help people navigate inside buildings or out in the open.

Uber is rolling out a Scheduled Rides feature – Uber’s great except for those times you can’t seem to get a driver. It may not be a big deal if you’re looking for a quick trip across the neighborhood, but if you’ve got a flight to get to, ensuring you can get a car is imperative. Enter one of Uber’s most-requested features: Scheduled Rides. The service has made the feature live in Seattle as of today, and plans to roll it out to other cities around the globe.

Using your phone to scan documents and old photos – Life has gone digital, but all sorts of documents and photos remain. It is uncomfortable leaving the important ones in their physical paper form — a flood, a fire, a mischievous cat are all potential sources of destruction, and it’s not really possible to replace an old photo for which the negatives are long gone. A scanner is the way to go if you want the best copies possible, but for every other situation, your phone is surprisingly capable of digitizing them.

Microsoft has created its own FreeBSD image– Microsoft has created its own cut of FreeBSD 10.3 in order to make the OS available and supported in Azure. Jason Anderson, principal PM manager at Microsoft’s Open Source Technology Center says Redmond “took on the work of building, testing, releasing and maintaining the image” so it could “ensure our customers have an enterprise SLA for their FreeBSD VMs running in Azure”. Microsoft did so “to remove that burden” from the FreeBSD Foundation, which relies on community contributions.


Here’s the one surprising lesson I learned as a victim of debit card fraud – There’s a good reason why the bank didn’t tell me it was happening…

Securing your car from cyberattacks is becoming a big business – A modern car has dozens of computers with as much as 100 million lines of code — and for every 1,000 lines there are as many as 15 bugs that are potential doors for would-be hackers. While cybersecurity became a top priority for carmakers after a 2015 Jeep Cherokee was hacked last year, the lead time for developing a new car is three to five years and with a service life of 20 years or more, most vehicles have systems that have vastly outdated compared to the latest consumer electronics devices. That’s creating what researchers expect to be an enormous market for vehicle anti-malware and secure hardware.

uTorrent forums breached via software vendor, consider passwords compromised – uTorrent forums warned users to consider passwords compromised and change them. Have I Been Pwned posted a notice about the BitTorrent IP.Board-based forum being hacked, adding that besides passwords, the breach included usernames, email and IP addresses.

A hacker claims to be selling millions of Twitter accounts – A hacker, who has links to the recent MySpace, LinkedIn, and Tumblr data breaches, is claiming another major tech scalp — this time, it’s said to be millions of Twitter accounts. A Russian seller, who goes by the name Tessa88, claimed in an encrypted chat on Tuesday to have obtained the database, which includes email addresses (and sometimes two per person), usernames, and plain-text passwords. Tessa88 is selling the cache for 10 bitcoins, or about $5,820 at the time of writing.

Security versus privacy? There’s only going to be one winner – Encryption might enable absolute privacy but in the long term national security will have to prevail, warns former Foreign Secretary William Hague.

One of the World’s Largest Botnets Has Vanished – With no warning, one of the world’s largest criminal botnets—a massive collection of computers used to launch attacks—has disappeared. Researchers have reported huge drops in traffic for two of the most popular pieces of malware which rely on it. “We can only tell that the Dridex and Locky spam campaigns stopped since June 1 in our observation. We cannot confirm how the botnet was brought down yet,” Joonho Sa, a researcher for cybersecurity company FireEye, told Motherboard in an email. Dridex is a piece of malware typically used to empty bank accounts, while Locky is a particularly widespread form of ransomware, which encrypts a victim’s files until they pay a hefty bounty in bitcoin. The two campaigns have been linked in the past.

Company News:

Avast expands beyond security with new storage-optimizing app called Photo Space – Avast is a company best known for its security software, but the days where everyone’s first download to their Windows PC is an anti-virus program are fading into the past. The 25-year old software maker still claims 230 million individuals and businesses using its security applications for mobile and PC, including anti-virus, VPN utilities and other programs, but today it’s expanding into a new direction: photo management. With the debut of a new app for iOS called Avast Photo Space, the company is now aiming to help users free up storage on their devices by moving full-res photos to the cloud service of users’ choice, while optimizing those photos remaining on the device.


Apple is making so much clean energy, it formed a new company to sell it – Apple has created a subsidiary to sell the excess electricity generated by its hundreds of megawatts of solar projects. The company, called Apple Energy LLC, filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to sell power on wholesale markets across the US. The company has announced plans for 521 megawatts of solar projects globally. It’s using that clean energy to power all of its data centers, as well as most of its Apple Stores and corporate offices. In addition, it has other investments in hydroelectric, biogas, and geothermal power, and looks to purchase green energy off the grid when it can’t generate its own power. In all, Apple says it generates enough electricity to cover 93 percent of its energy usage worldwide.

Apple website again hints at OS X name change to ‘macOS’ – Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is only a few days away, but it’s looking more and more like one of the announcements we can expect at the keynote is a rebranding of the Mac’s OS X to simply “macOS.” Following similar discoveries earlier this year, a page on the company’s developer replaced “OS X” with “macOS” (specifically with a lower-case M) alongside Apple’s other operating systems like iOS, tvOS, and watch OS.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft launches a free trial of Minecraft: Education Edition for teachers to test over the summer – Following up on its promises from January, Microsoft today released a free trial of Minecraft Education Edition – the version of Minecraft meant for use in the classroom – to educators worldwide. This “early access” version of the program includes new features and updated classroom content and curriculum, the company also says. For those unfamiliar with the Education Edition, the idea is to bring the world of Minecraft to the classroom to be used as a learning tool where students can develop skills in areas like digital citizenship, empathy, literacy, and more.


Microsoft admits Halo 5 isn’t coming to the PC – Halo 5: Guardians debuted on the Xbox One in October, and rumors of its port to the PC have persisted ever since. While Halo franchise director Frank O’Connor said “there is plenty of chance that Halo 5 could appear on the PC” back in October, it appears that Microsoft isn’t planning to port the title to PC. “Our approach is to deliver epic Halo experiences designed for PC gamers and Windows 10, such as Halo Wars 2 and the recently announced Halo 5: Forge,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to PC Gamer. “There are no plans to port Halo 5: Guardians to PC.”


No more Mr. Nice Ubisoft: First-time Division cheaters now banned permanently – In a move intended to help stem a wave of cheating in the online portions of The Division, Ubisoft says it is rescinding its policy of issuing 14-day suspensions when a player is first detected using a cheat engine. Now, those players will be permanently banned when found. The new policy comes after The Division team said it became clear to them that the 14-day suspension policy currently in place “has not been dissuasive enough… judging from your feedback, and based on what we witnessed when cheaters came back to the game.” That 14-day suspension policy was itself an increase from the previous three-day suspensions that were given out for first offenses until late April.


Destiny’s first major expansion in over a year is coming out this September – Destiny developer Bungie unveiled its first big addition to Destiny since The Taken King this afternoon. Rise of Iron is the interplanetary shooter-MMORPG’s next expansion, and it’s being released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 20th for $30 USD. (It’s the first Destiny content that isn’t being released for last-gen consoles, i.e., the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.) Bungie dove into Rise of Iron for the first time with a Twitch stream this afternoon, one that introduced the game’s new playable area — the Plaguelands, a devastated and dangerous part of what used to be Russia — and the mutated Fallen enemies that call it home.


Microsoft abandons Xbox One TV DVR feature – During last year’s Gamescom event, Microsoft announced that it would be adding TV DVR to the Xbox One. This feature would allow users to record free-to-air TV programs remotely, and stream or download them to Windows 10 PCs and mobile devices. This was meant to be an alternative to Windows Media Center for Windows 10, which the company killed off. It looks like the Xbox One will now have no TV DVR functionality at all as Microsoft is abandoning the feature.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The PC Hardware Nerd Quiz – Think you know your hardware? Put your big brain to work on this gallery of PC hardware trivia and you just might learn a thing or two.

The tipping point for rebellion – We are all getting lazy and spoiled. We’re not choosing simple over better, but easy over passably good. We’re self-sabotaging ourselves because effort is a price too great to pay for anything. At what point do we rebel? At what point do we notice that it’s the friction in life that enables us to feel something? That “difficult” is where satisfaction comes from, that the search is part of the destination, that life is for living and living is about experiences — and that involves thought and effort and the satisfaction of amazing and the risk of awful.

The Case for Giving Everyone Free Money – Sometime in the last few weeks, or months, or years, you may have heard about this idea called “universal basic income.” It’s the idea that maybe governments should give a monthly stipend—no questions asked—to everyone who lives there. It’s an idea we’ve covered quite a bit over the years, and it’s one that’s increasingly gaining steam among people on both sides of the political spectrum. Conservatives and libertarians say that it can simplify the bureaucracy associated with things like welfare and food stamps, and liberals like it because it would strengthen the social safety net.

Here’s why you might not want to make money decisions after a tough work day – After a hard day at the office, where you were focused intently on a challenging project, you may consider a choice on the way home: impulsively splurge on a fancy dinner as a reward for that cerebral slog or save that bit of cash as planned—perhaps putting it toward a relaxing vacation next month. Despite any frugal inclinations, your weary noggin may not be able to rally your normal level of willpower, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It also may point to the need for more brain-resting periods throughout a workday.

A single strain of the plague may be behind 7 centuries of deadly outbreaks – Fresh genetic sequencing data of plague bacteria from victims in Spain, Germany, and Russia suggest that a single wave of the deadly microbes sparked the Black Death as well as the subsequent outbreaks that flared for centuries in Europe and in the 19th century pandemic in China. This single wave also gave rise to plague strains behind some modern outbreaks. The study is the first to make a genetic link between the Black Death and modern plague, the authors report in Cell Host & Microbe. For the study, researchers collected bacterial DNA from the teeth of 178 individuals found in a mass-grave site in Barcelona, Spain, a single grave in Bolgar City in Russia, and a mass-grave site in Ellwangen, Germany.


The mass plague grave site in Ellwangen, Germany, which was dated to between 1486 and 1627.  Rainer Weiss

Pint-sized exoskeleton aims to help kids walk again – The exoskeleton the little boy in the image here is wearing was created by engineers from the Spanish National Research Council and rather than being designed for adults, this one is designed to help children. Specifically the 26-pound aluminum and titanium exoskeleton aims to help children with spinal muscular atrophy known as SMA. The simple act of walking could help stave off potentially deadly side effects of the disease.


Democracy, film review: How the EU’s data protection law was made – This documentary is almost as extraordinary an achievement as the passage of the General Data Protection Regulation: it makes data protection law and legislative compromise engrossing. Who knew that was even possible?

Something to think about:

“Get the facts, or the facts will get you. And when you get them, get them right, or they will get you wrong.”

–    Dr. Thomas Fuller(1654 – 1734), Gnomologia, 1732

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

US developing real-time camera-based behavior monitoring system – In the not-so-distant-future, your every public action may be monitored by cameras that deliver video feeds to behavior tracking systems capable of analyzing your actions for suspicious elements in real-time. The system is called Deep Intermodal Video Analytics, DIVA for short, and it is currently a research project with the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency. As you may have guessed, it is being developed under the banner of fighting terrorism.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency published a project synopsis last week which, in part, says:

The DIVA program will produce a common framework and software prototype for activity detection, person/object detection and recognition across a multicamera network. The impact will be the development of tools for forensic analysis, as well as real-time alerting for user-defined threat scenarios.

Senator Tells Funny J. Edgar Hoover Story to Warn Against Expanded FBI Surveillance Power – SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, D-Vt., warned colleagues Thursday to think hard before expanding FBI surveillance powers, sharing a cautionary tale about his own experiences with former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

“I know we’ve had some wonderful people in our government, but I worry anytime you give a lot of extra powers. There’s always potential for abuse,” Leahy said at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting

Leahy said he was on the board of the National District Attorney’s Association when he met with Hoover, now best known for surveilling anti-war protestors, Martin Luther King, and others. FBI Director James Comey has said he keeps a copy of Hoover’s request to wiretap King on his desk as a reminder of the FBI’s past mistakes.

“We were all over six feet tall”— except Hoover, Leahy said. “But we were all looking up at him. The legs of our chairs had been cut off, and his had been built up. He was talking about all these people he had to investigate … [saying] it’s these hippies who are really communists.”

“I’m glad I didn’t have a Volkswagen,” Leahy said, recalling how Hoover identified “hippies” with those particular vehicles.

“I was always having nightmares thinking what would a man like that do with enormous enhanced powers in the digital age. I’m sure you share my concerns, so let’s work together,” he concluded.

The legislation at issue is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2015 — a widely supported bill that would require a warrant when law enforcement wants to access the contents of emails older than 180 days.


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